(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "My country and my people"

LITERARY   LIFE                       249
fare, to be taken down immediately after the occasion. The theatre was therefore in the open and the actors had to compete with the peddlers9 cries, the barbers5 tuning forks, the malt-sugar sellers3 small gongs5 the shouting of men, women and children and the barking of dogs. Above such a din? only a thin falsetto keyed in a high pitch could have been heard, as anybody may verify for himself. The gongs and drums were also used as a means of attracting attention; they always preceded the plays and could be heard a mile away,, thus serving the purpose of street posters for the movies. When staged in a modern theatre building, the volume of noise thus produced is truly terrific, but somehow the Chinese have adapted themselves to it, as the Americans have adapted themselves to jazz. They want noise and they want life to get a "kick" out of it. Time will erase all this, and Chinese theatrical shows will eventually be tamed and "civilized" when they are housed in modern theatre buildings.
From a purely literary point of view, Chinese dramatic works contain a type of poetry which far surpasses the T'ang lyrics in power and beaoty. It is my firm belief that, lovely as the T'ang poetry is, we have to go to the dramas and the odd dramatic songs (hsiaotiao) to find some of CMaass greatest poetry. For classical poetry moves more or less along certain traditional patterns of thought and style. It has a cultivated, super-refined technique, but it lacks grandeur and power and richness. The feeling one gets on turning from classical poetry to poetry in the dramas (and Chinese dramas are essentially regarded, as has been pointed out, as a collection of poems) is like turning from an exquisite plum branch in a vase to one's ontside garden, so much superior in freshness, richness and variety.
Chinese lyrics are dainty, but never long and never very powerful. By their very terseness, narrative and descriptive passages are necessarily limited in character. In the dramas the scope and style of poetry are different. Words are used which would have been scoffed at by the court critics as vulgar. Images arise, and dramatic situations are presented which call for a wider range of literary power and which clearly would lie outside the province of the lyric. Human emotions reach a